Can Montanans save the bees?

BOZEMAN - After a semi truck carrying millions of bees tipped over near Bozeman, experts say there shouldn't *bee* too much sting to the local environment.

The crash happened at the intersection of Durston and Gooch Hill Road, west of Bozeman. Montana Highway Patrol says the driver tried to take a tight turn and tipped over into the ditch, freeing the bees and shutting down both roads for hours. The Florida-based trucking company that owns the truck says the semi is back on the road with 78,000 pounds of bees to drop them off at their destination in North Dakota.

The incident was a new challenge for many of the first responders in Bozeman, with Hyalite Fire volunteer firefighter Tracy Echert saying that she'd "never seen this on a call before."

So, what harm could yesterday's honeybees do to the local bee population? The good news is, not much.

As bee hobbyist and swarm remover Chuck Swenson, explains it: "These bees are not an invasive species in any way, and they probably aren't harboring any diseases that don't already exist in the local populations."

Unfortunately, most bees - if they don't find a colony to join - will quickly die from the cold.

If the bees make an impact at all, it will likely be positive.

"The lucky ones might find a local beehive to get adopted into," says Swenson, "which won't do anything but just strengthen the numbers of those beehives."

And despite the look of thousands of bees swarming a truck, there's nothing to be afraid of if you're not allergic to the creatures.

"Even though the number sounds impressive," Swenson admits, "you know, a whole semi truck full of bees crashing, it's really a drop in the bucket compared to the population that's already here."

Swenson says he can't try to estimate how many bees are already in Bozeman, but he knows that the number is high.

He also adds that those in the immediate area might see more bees over the next few days, but that number will likely go down if the nights get cold.

Honey bees are big business for Montanans. The Treasure State more often than not ranks in the top five states for honey production, according to the National Honey Board.

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